Vulnerability and Adaptation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines vulnerability to climate change as “the degree to which geophysical, biological and socio-economic systems are susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse impacts of climate change” (Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability).

Vulnerability and Adaptation

Adaptation is defined by the IPCC as the “Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.” (Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability).

Temperatures are expected to increase by 1 to 5ᵒC in Lebanon by the end of the 21st century
The adverse impacts of climate change have been repetitively assessed by the IPCC from 1990 and onward in their four assessment reports and include glacier shrinking, changes in Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems, increased sea-surface temperature, increased droughts in some regions while increased floods in other, sea level rise, coastal erosion, etc. These impacts will have significant consequences on human health, food production, water resources, biodiversity and infrastructure.

The latest IPCC assessment report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policy Makers stresses that “many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia”. Among the main alarming observations are the increase of CO2, CH4, and N2O concentrations to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, the rise of global mean sea level by 0.19m for the period 1901-2010 and the continuous shrinking of glaciers almost worldwide.

In Lebanon, different climate change scenarios have been developed through the application of a downscaled General Circulation Model - PRECIS - to predict the changes in temperature and precipitation by the end of the 21st century. Results showed that by the year 2040 temperatures will increase by around 1°C on the coast to 2°C in the mainland and by 2090 it will further increase by 3.5°C to 5°C respectively. Another effect is on the rainfall pattern which is expected to decrease by 10-20% in the year 2040 which will later on reach to a decrease of 45% in the year 2090.

A less wet and sustainably warmer condition will expand the time of hot and dry climate. The summer days will witness a rise in temperature above 35°C and tropical nights higher than 25°C. In addition the drought periods over all of Lebanon will increase by 9-18 days by the year 2090.

In addition, climate change will induce a reduction of 40% to 70% of the snow cover with an increase of 2°C - 4°C respectively, a shift of elevation of snow residence time from 1,500m to 1,900m and a decrease in snow residence time from 110 days to 45 days. This will influence the rivers and groundwater recharge and will impact the water availability during the summer season and drought periods. Such changes are expected to have diverse effects on Lebanon's environment, economy and social structure. The increase in forest fires, pest outbreaks, and sea level rise will threaten the fragile biodiversity, ecosystems and natural habitats.

With the growing pressure forced by urbanization and population growth along with the limited availability of water and land resources, agriculture is the most vulnerable sector with the overall agricultural yield of crops at risk. As a result, the overall agricultural yield of crops will be affected and a decrease in production is expected. In addition, great pressure will be placed on the power production and supply system due to the higher cooling demand in summer. Water will face a reduction of 6% to 8% of the total volume of water resources with the increase in 1°C and 12% to 16% with a 2°C rise in temperature. More details available in the Second National Communication report.

Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change

As described in the report Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change: A First Look, anticipated changes in climate are likely to impose direct and indirect economic costs on Lebanon, in case the current GHG emission continue. Directly, higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, and extreme weather events would reduce agricultural productivity, adversely impacting human health, causing floods and damage to various segments of the Lebanese economy and society. Indirectly, the direct impacts hinder and slow the economic growth, which would lower Lebanon’s GDP and business activity. Eventually, this would indirectly adversely impact the incomes for workers, households, and expose the government to lower revenues and higher costs.

The report studies the total costs that Lebanon might experience in 2020, 2040, and 2080 from the cumulative effects of global GHG emissions since 2015, and the total costs from single-year emissions in each of those years. If current trends continue, the potential cost from cumulative global GHG emissions between 2015 and 2020 would be about USD 320 million and cause Lebanon’s GDP to reduce by 3%, in 2040 the costs would reach USD 2,800 million and the forgone GDP by 14%, and by 2080 the costs would be USD 23,200 million and reduce Lebanon’s GDP by 32%. These numbers suggest that the average cost per household would likely exceed average household annual earnings soon, which currently are about USD 12,000. More details in the Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change report.

There are several costs that might be imposed on different segments of local economy and society, such as impacts on the agriculture and various food supplies, the water supply, the rates of natural disasters, the tourism, the electricity consumption, the public health, the natural ecosystems, and the society at large. All these segments are discussed in detail in the Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change report.

Various approaches can be assessed to target and reduce these potential costs imposed on the Lebanese economy and society. These approaches include strengthening human capital, such as improving education and awareness, conserving natural capital, reducing vulnerability of physical capital by withdrawing development from high-risk areas, and strengthening the social and cultural capitals through improving access to information, finance and technology, and understanding of climate risks to culturally important resources and activities. More details in the Economic Costs to Lebanon from Climate Change report.